Lawyers for a school groundskeeper dying of cancer told a San Francisco jury on Tuesday to find that agribusiness giant Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup likely caused his disease.
The jury was hearing closing arguments from Dewayne Johnson's lawyers about the suit, the first case to go to trial among hundreds of lawsuits saying Roundup caused non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, as well as counter-arguments from Monsanto's attorneys.
Johnson's representatives asked the jury to penalize Monsanto $373 million in damages, or interest of their cash on-hand in years, since Johnson developed cancer. “That’s a number that makes people change their way,” one of the attorneys said.
On the other hand, Monsanto's lawyer George Lombardi said the evidence is clear after 40 years of Roundup being on the market, that Johnson's cancer was caused by the product.
Johnson sprayed Roundup and a similar product, Ranger Pro, at his job as a pest control manager at a San Francisco Bay Area school district, according to his attorneys.
He sprayed large quantities from a 50-gallon tank attached to a truck, according to his attorney, Brent Wisner. When the wind was gusty, it would cover his face, Wisner said. When a hose broke once, it soaked his entire body.
Johnson read the label carefully and even contacted the company after developing a rash, but was never warned it could cause cancer, Wisner said. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2014 at the age of 42.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate is safe for humans when used in accordance with label directions. A draft report by the agency last year concluded the herbicide is not likely to be carcinogenic to humans. The report noted that science reviews by numerous other countries had reached the same conclusion.